I have been using VirtualBox VMs under Ubuntu for some time now, and, with the guest additions properly installed, the VMs always had 3D support - at least enough to run Unity in Natty.

But, when I've upgraded to a new machine (Dell Precision E4600) it no longer works. :(

The old machine (Dell Latitude D630) has Intel graphics, I think, and the new has ATI graphics, so that's probably the issue. I'm not sure how to find out what model exactly.

The host OS, Ubuntu 11.04, does have working 3D. That is to say, I can run Unity fine, glxgears works, and FoldIt also. Somehow it just seems to be insufficient for both VirtualBox and VMWare Player.

I did initially try to install the ATI proprietary drivers (through the Additional Drivers tool). They did permit 3D to run in the VMs, but they also caused lots of trouble with multiple monitor support, so I uninstalled them.

Have I somehow broken the default driver when I installed the ATI drivers, or does it just not support my hardware well enough for VMs? Might the situation be improved in 11.10?

  • Virtual Box 3D capabilities indeed depend on the host graphics driver. Unfortunately I have no experience with up to date ATI drivers. The situation in 11.10 has improved somewhat as there now is an automatic fallback to Unity 2D in case your 3D driver fails. – Takkat Sep 23 '11 at 18:38

This appears to be solved in 11.10! :)


Confirm in your BIOS settings that you have hardware virtualization support enabled - vendors tend to turn it off by default these days.

Also, your CPU may be in a series that might have virtualization support but your subsection of the series might not have it. In this case, both VirtualBox and KVM emulate in software, which is not fast enough for 3D.

  • BIOS settings are fine, and i7 certainly does have virtualization support. As I said, when I installed the non-open source driver the 3D worked fine, both for the host and the guest. – ams Oct 17 '11 at 16:54

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